Category Archives: Reviews

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison – A review

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I have been reading comics for over 30 years now and hold a great love for the superhero genre. My love of superheroes extends beyond just reading and collecting comics. I am always looking for other mediums to seek out great superhero stories. Mediums  like novels and short stories, Table top Roleplaying games, as well as movies, video games and collectibles. In doing so I have come across some fascinating and insightful non-fiction that has come from scholars, fans, industry personnel, and of course the artists and writers themselves.

Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison is no stranger to comic book fans, He is one of the top writers of comic book superhero fiction that came along with the rest of the British invasion in the 80’s that kicked off a new style of storytelling. Born in Glascow in 1960, Morrison grew up surrounding himself with comics and always wanting to become a writer of the medium, which is a which was fulfilled by hard work and dedication to the craft. Some of his most acclaimed work  started in the late 80’s with the graphic novel  Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth which was a fantastic nightmare story set in the batman universe. This lead to a amazing run on Animal Man and Doom Patrol. In the 90’s and seeking creative control of his own characters he created his own amazing superhero series The Invisibles for Vertigo comics. In the 2000’s Grant did a amazing run on one of Marvel comics premier titles The X-men before returning back into the DC fold to take over some of their biggest titles such as JLA, Batman and Robin, and Superman. He continues to write and create great stories to this day.

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His long and exciting career in comics has left him with a lot of insights into the superhero genre. Wanting to share his knowledge on the history and what he has learned by writing superhero fiction, Grant Morrison penned Supergods. Part autobiography, part comic book history and part insight into industry trends, Grant Morrison has weaved an astounding amount of research into one book.  Here is the blurb on the back cover of what the book is about (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and the X-Men—the list of names as familiar as our own. They are on our movie and television screens, in our videogames and in our dreams. But what are they trying to tell us? For Grant Morrison, one of the most acclaimed writers in the world of comics, these heroes are powerful archetypes who reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them we tell the story of ourselves. In this exhilarating work of a lifetime, Morrison draws on art, archetypes, and his own astonishing journeys through this shadow universe to provide the first true history of our great modern myth: the superhero.)

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I found Supergods a great read for the superhero fanatic like myself. When I finished reading Supergods I actually had post partum book depression. I had ordered my copy through the public library and was forced to take it back because there was holds on it. I had finished Supergods but with such a extensive amount of information being thrown at you there was just so much information to process. I had to go out and buy my own copy to re read a lot of the information that Grant litters throughout this amazing literary contribution to superheroes.  And there is no company bias what so ever, Grant gives equal time to both Marvel and DC as well as some of the independent comics like Image. Learning about some of the history and ins and out of DC comics, was especially interesting because no one has yet written the definitive history of DC, like Sean Howe did for Marvel comics in his book Marvel: the Untold Story (review forthcoming). Grant Morrison also gives you a extensive reading list at the back with both nonfiction and comic book reads that takes you through the different ages of comic book history. Writing this book Grant Morrison gives you the feeling that he loves superheroes as much as his fan base does and this love flows through out the pages and even though there is a bit of self promotion through out Supergods, Morrison’s work alone is a testament to excellent story telling and his own contributions to history of comics and should not be taken lightly by any account.

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As this is the start of Superhero month, I recommend that this book be apart of your reading list. So if you can, run on down to your local bookstore or library and grab yourself a copy of Grant Morrison’s Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human. And while you are at it check out some of Grant Morrison’s great contributions to superhero comics as listed below.

Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Dave McKean.

9e3c120b9 Doom Patrol (with Richard Case, Doug Braithwaite, Mike Dringenberg and Vincent Giarrano,

grant-morrison-animal-man Animal Man (with Chas Truog, Tom Grummett and Paris Cullins,

929653 The Invisibles: Considered Grant Morrison’s Omnibus

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Morrison 2001 -Marvel Boy Marvel Boy  with J. G. Jones

 img_0528 New X-Men by Grant Morrison

JLA Vol 1 JLA by Grant Morrison

allstarsuppresale All-Star Superman By Grant Morrison with Frank Quitely

I am the Exuberant Enigma Eric from The Stranger’s Bookshelf wishing you the best in your fight against villainy.

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Flame On!!!

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Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed a new arabesque fantasy of high adventure and grand magic a review.

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This past month I have been really getting back into Arabian Nights style modern fantasy as a change from all the Medieval European fantasy that is out there; and also to have a break from beloved far eastern Wuxia inspired fantasy. If you read any of my older posts you would see I share the same amount of love for Arabian/Persian Mythology, Folklore and fantasy as I do for For Eastern fantasy. “My second favorite fantasy epic is the Arabian Nights, which I tend to read at least once a year. I also  have a great love for doing research on Arabian folklore and mythology and my shelves are adorned with several books on the subject. In the mean time, I am always on the look out for new writers who are creating the same feel and tone that the original Arabian nights has, which is that desert Arabesque fantasy fiction set in the Islamic Golden Age that is filled with Djinn, Magi, magic carpets, Dervish and other elements that makes the Nights so magical.

Well in my search for modern fantasy writers who write Arabesque fantasy fiction I had stumbled upon Saladin Ahmed and his premier novel The Throne of the Crescent Moon which is set to be a trilogy, Here is a synopsis of the book.

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From Saladin Ahmed, finalist for the Nebula and Campbell Awards, comes one of the year’s most anticipated fantasy debuts: THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, a fantasy adventure with all the magic of “The Arabian Nights.”

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron- fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near- mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

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The main protagonists of the novel Throne of the Crescent Moon (from left to right) Zamia, Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, Raseed bas Raseed

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time-and struggle against their own misgivings-to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

I really enjoyed the Throne of the Crescent Moon. It is filled with high adventure and fantastic magic perfect for any lover of fantasy fiction. You almost feel like you are reading a version of Ray Harryhausen’s 1958 film the 7th voyage of Sinbad. What is also really fascinating are the characters in this novel. They stray away from western fantasy stereotypes that are so common in fantasy fiction and introduce us to a new and unique culture that we as westerners are totally unfamiliar with. I can’t wait for the sequels to Throne of the Crescent Moon to come out as I have really grown attached to the protagonists. I have even created a Role Playing Character based on the dervish Raseed bas Raseed for Pathfinder adventure campaigns that are based in the desert.

Map of The Crescent Moon Kingdom from Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Map of The Crescent Moon Kingdom from Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

What I also feel, is that Saladin Ahmed novel hails as a direct descendent of the original Arabian Nights series of tales, and it shows. Saladin spent a lot of time researching the Arabian Nights and Islamic mythology to get the correct feel for his trilogy. Because of this he doesn’t disappoint as his story feels like it was ripped right from the pages of the Arabian Nights themselves. What is also interesting is how much research and information Saladin has gathered for writing this grand epic. I follow a few of his feeds like Twitter and Tumbler and he is always posting new and obscure facts and information about the Arabian Nights from time to time. It would be really interesting to see if he will ever create a non-fiction prose about the Arabian nights with all the information and research he has obtained in order to write this trilogy.

You will also find that Saladin Ahmed’s writing style is definitely award winning in its own right. The Throne of the Crescent Moon has already been nominated for both a Hugo award for best novel 2013 as well as a nomination for a Nebula award for best new novel 2012 and won the Locus award for best new novel 2013. Saladin was also a finalist for the John W Campbell award 2010 and the nebula award for best short story 2009. This is definitely an author to watch out for in the near future. Saladin Ahmed is hoping to finish writing the sequels, and they should be in print by 2015.

Saladin Ahmed Author of The Throne of the Crescent Moon

Saladin Ahmed Author of The Throne of the Crescent Moon

So if you are looking for a modern Arabesque Fantasy novel that feels and reads very much like the Arabian Nights or are looking for something different to line your fantasy bookshelf go out and pick up a copy of The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed trust me you won’t be disappointed.

And if you are interested in looking for other non-western/medieval fantasy, Saladin Ahmed has a really great list on his Pinterest account (link is highlighted)

Here is also Saladin’s great webpage and blog where you can get updates on his work.

I also highly recommend his twitter and  tumbler accounts as they are very insightful, informative and sometimes downright fun to read (trust me his knowledge which also encompasses the golden age comics and pulp fiction are also unparallelled I am always learning new tidbits from him).

 

I’m Eric from The Strangers Bookshelf wishing you a Happy Quest.

 

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